For the writer of fiction, one of the most puzzling problems is "point of view." I recall seeing the critiques of my first novel laden with notes about point of view--"make this close third person," "you've slipped into omniscient," and similar phrases that might just as well have been Aramaic for all they conveyed to me. I tried my best, honestly. I slogged through Mastering Point Of View and came away with information overload. I asked several writers to explain. I studied. But it took quantum physicist Randy Ingermanson to make it simple (go figure). Randy told his mentoring group, "Imagine a camera recording the scene. Where's the camera?" Of course, that's an oversimplification, but it helped me begin to understand.
The three major types of POV are omniscient, first person, and third person. Omniscient--where the narrator is able to see things from everyone's perspective--is less popular than it was years ago, probably because it's more distant and less likely to make the reader identify with characters. First person--told through a single narrator, from his viewpoint and with his thoughts and reactions--is good when you can pull it off. Robert B. Parker does it beautifully with his Spenser novels. I tried it once, but gave up after one chapter. It's tough. (And that's why agents and editors tell neophyte writers not to try). That leaves third person--told from the perspective of one person, revealing what they see and think. Close third person just means getting further inside their skin and giving the reader a more intimate view. Most writers of fiction choose this approach, and with good reason.
The non-writers reading this are already yawning. The writers are asking, "So? I know that...or think I do. What's your point?" Glad you asked. I've been noticing how many of the novels I've recently read have sections where the POV slides from the perspective of one character to another in the middle of a scene. Established writers can get away with it, but it sort of disappoints me. Even John Grisham, in his latest novel, has a bit of head-hopping early in the book.
Consider this scene. The protagonist is in trouble and being questioned by police. As we have been since the beginning of the novel, we're in the head of the protagonist: "(His) flash of anger was gone, replaced by the crush of confusion and fear." Great word choices, paints a good picture, definitely in the protagonist's POV. But, same scene, about a dozen lines of dialogue later, suddenly the detective "didn't like the...answer, but decided to let it slide. He knew that..." See, this either has to be omniscient POV or he's head-hopping. I took it for the latter. In either case, it seems that it would be a lot cleaner to keep the POV consistent throughout the scene. The transition is a bit jarring to me.
So, back to work, always conscious of my POV as I write. I think keeping it consistent makes for better reading and more identification by the reader with the character. But, that's my opinion. What's yours?